It is important to understand the link between land surface/soil properties and shallow groundwater quality. To that end, soil properties and near-water-table groundwater chemistry of a shallow, unconfined aquifer were measured on a 100-m grid on a 64-ha irrigated field in southeastern North Dakota. Soil properties and hydrochemistry were compared via multivariate analysis that included product-moment correlations and factor analysis/principal component analysis. Topographic low areas where the water table was in close proximity to the soil surface generally had higher apparent electrical conductivity (ECa) and higher percent silt and clay than higher positions on the landscape. The majority of the groundwater was characterized by Ca- and Mg-HCO3 type water and was associated with topographic high areas with lower ECa and net groundwater recharge. Small topographic depressions were areas of higher ECa (net groundwater discharge) where salts that precipitated via evapotranspiration and evaporative discharge dissolved and leached to the groundwater during short-term depression-focused recharge events. At this site, groundwater quality and soil ECa were related to surface topography. High-resolution topography and ECa measurements are necessary to characterize the land surface/soil properties and surficial groundwater quality at the field-scale and to delineate areas where the shallow groundwater is most susceptible to contamination.
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